Love your colleagues and improve your performance

Love your colleagues? This is not a word you often hear bandied around in an office environment. But strangely enough, if you ‘feel’ love at work, then the more engaged you’re likely to be.

We’re talking here about compassionate love, a feeling of warmth and affection, of connecting with your fellow co-workers. It’s not surprising to discover that those who care about their colleagues perform better, but an emotionally focused culture is not top of the list for managers.

In a study carried out by Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill, they explored the influence that compassion and emotion has on employees and patients within a long-term care environment.

What came out of it was that the presence of an emotional culture has a positive impact on performance in the workplace. In a follow-up study surveying over 3,000 employees across different industries, they found the same held true.

If you and your team feel that they work in a caring culture, then you’re likely to report higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. The number of sick days taken will also reduce and people will want to come to work.

Fostering this type of culture, where managers actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees, has taken hold in some large organisations. The US company Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with ‘Love’ and multinational PepsiCo lists ‘caring’ as its first guiding principle on its website.

Love Your Colleagues

Loving your colleagues can be a hard concept for some people to swallow. But Barsade and O’Neill’s research discovered love in the most unlikely of places, ones where they were expecting die-hard sceptics.

One example of this was in a large aerospace business where team members routinely greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek. When visiting executives from the parent company witnessed this, they were firstly alarmed and along with finding it inappropriate, thought that it would be an invitation for sexual harassment lawsuits. But despite trying to get employees to stop the behaviour, they’ve now allowed the emotional culture to flourish within this particular division.

Whether or not you want to encourage group hugs in your team meetings, there are several ways of building up a working culture of compassion and positivity. Here are three tips:

  1. Broaden your definition of culture: A ‘cognitive culture’ focuses on values such as teamwork, results or innovation. However, cultivating an emotional culture as well looks at such characteristics as love, compassion, joy and pride.
  2. What mood are you in?: Focus on the emotions you’re expressing to your colleagues and team members every day, as the mood you’re in will affect the rest of the group.
  3. Change your company policies & practices: Consider how your company policies can encourage greater affection, caring, compassion and tenderness among workers. At some companies, employees can forego vacation days or organise emergency funds to help fellow employees who are struggling and need help.

Most importantly, though, it is the small moments between your colleagues and team members — a big smile, a kind email, a sympathetic ear — being carried out on a daily basis that will help foster and maintain a strong emotional culture. Increases in employee satisfaction, productivity and client satisfaction will be the rewards you reap because of it.

What do you want your team to achieve?

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